An estimated 65 million baby boomers in the U.S. are using the internet regularly. So what are they doing online? Web surfing down memory lane! Seems our fast paced, hurried society has created a big yearning for boomers to turn back the clock and return to the “good old days.”
This nostalgia wave has created a huge demand for anything collectible from those good old days. Old magazines are hot because they are affordable nostalgia, and a boomer can purchase a collectible issue of a favorite magazine from the 50s,60s, or 70s for as little as $12-$30.
That’s created an opportunity for entrepreneurs to scout for those old magazines in their local attics, basements and garages, then sell them online to the boomer collectors who are snapping them up. It’s not a get-rich-quick business, but ideal for those who enjoy browsing local garage and estate sales to find the magazines.
Today, eBay is the best place to sell old magazines, thanks to a well-deserved reputation as the go-to spot on the internet for collectibles of all sorts. There are also many lesser-known venues, such as Etsy.com. Those who have built up a decent inventory of magazines often open up their own online store, using inexpensive software such as Volusia.com.
While finding old magazines is fairly easy, the secret is in knowing which ones are profitable and which are dogs. According to one book on the subject, Old Magazines Into Gold, there are about two dozen common magazines that sell well and are in plentiful supply. Some, like Life magazine, were mass-circulation magazines, hitting a peak of 8 million copies sold every week in the 60s. The common magazines like Life, Look and Good Housekeeping are the steady seller online, and usually fetch a 10X markup over the garage/estate sale price. For example, you might pay $1 each for a stack of old Life magazines at a local sale, then list each one individually on eBay for $10-$15 each.
Here’s where the fun begins. Like a weekly treasure hunt, a garage or estate sale may turn up hidden gold. Examples include:
First issues. Look for Volume 1 #1 of almost any magazine. The first issue of People magazine from 1974 brings over $100.
Celebrities and VIPs. These can really boost a magazine’s collectible value, especially if the celebrity is on the cover and an article about them appears inside. Deceased celebrities tend to bring more than those still alive, but let’s use Madonna as an example anyway. She was on the cover of only one magazine in 1983, and just seven magazines in 1984, so those issues have a high value. Her very first appearance on the cover of Island magazine now brings over $1,000.
Inserts. Magazines occasionally publish an issue with an insert, which can raise the value substantially. For example, an issue of Sports Illustrated with a baseball card insert can bring 5X to 10X the price of an ordinary issue.
Avoid National Geographic. It has become the most saved magazine on the planet. Have you ever known a subscriber that did not save every issue? As a result, old issues are a very difficult sell, unless they are leather bound volumes with map inserts.
Covers. There is a sizable number of collectors who collect magazine covers, in particular the New Yorker, Life, Time and the Saturday Evening Post. A cover of a famous person, Marilyn Monroe, for example, or illustrated by a famous person like Norman Rockwell can bring many times the price of an ordinary issue.
The next time you’re at a garage or estate sale, if you don’t see any magazines, ask “Do you have any old magazines for sale?” You may find yourself taking a profitable trip down memory lane. To learn more about this little known, but very profitable business, read Old Magazines Into Gold.